Winter driving has its challenges. But throw an inexperienced — or inconsiderate — driver into the mix, and your daily commute can get much more difficult.
It’s always aggravating when other drivers put you at risk. Getting stuck behind a driver who is spinning their tires or not paying attention isn’t just annoying… it’s dangerous.
Winter driving calls for quick decision making, patience and a little bit of know-how. Below you’ll find ways to spot a rookie winter driver — and how to avoid looking like one yourself:
6 Common Mistakes of Winter Drivers
- Tailgating: Usually, drivers tailgate because they want the car in front of them to go faster. This is never OK, especially in the winter months. It takes longer to come to a stop in the winter, so you should always put more distance between you and the car ahead. Impatience on the road rarely pays off – tailgating just puts you and others at risk.
- Speeding: Speeding can get you into trouble quickly. Make sure you’re never driving faster than what is safe for the conditions. In snowy or icy conditions, that probably means driving below the speed limit. The faster you're going, the more likely you are to lose control or slide into another car. Expect traffic to move a little slower in the winter and allow extra time to get to your destination.
- Getting stuck: Driving through deep snow may sound like fun, but chances are it will leave your tires spinning. For your own safety, know when to stay off the road altogether and drive carefully to avoid losing traction in the first place. After all, getting stuck is easy – getting out isn’t.
- Ice on the windshield: If your car has snow or ice on the windshield, it can be tempting to save time by letting your wipers or defroster remove it as you drive. But driving without full visibility is like driving blindfolded. Use a snow brush or ice scraper to clear your windshield entirely every time you get behind the wheel. (And don’t just clear a little “window” you can see through!)
- Snow on the roof: If you’ve ever driven behind someone with snow on their roof, you know it can be an accident waiting to happen. If your car is covered in snow, take the time to clear your roof before you tackle the windows. You’ll keep snow from falling in your field of vision and from hitting the drivers behind you.
- Driving with high beams on: This can be frustrating in any condition, but some people think that high beams will increase your vision during whiteouts or heavy snowfall. In fact, fog lights and low beams will do much better. Learn what to do if you get stuck driving in a whiteout.
Just like other people's driving, winter weather can be unpredictable. But even the safest, most experienced drivers can get into an accident. That’s why it’s important to have the right insurance to protect you and your vehicle. Learn about the extras available with every Erie Insurance auto policy.
Want more tips for winter driving?
Check out these related articles:
- 8 Things Your Car Needs in Winter
- Does My Car Need Snow Tires?
- Why (and How) To Get All the Snow and Ice Off of Your Car
- How Cold Weather Affects Tire Pressure
- Here’s Why It’s Worth Getting Regular Car Washes in the Winter
To customize an auto policy that’s right for you, contact your local Erie Insurance agent. We’ll provide practical help, reliable solutions and service that exceeds your expectations.
Posted on 14 January 2021 | 9:00 pm
Further compounding the problem is the fact that many people now install dryers outside of their basements. This typically results in dryer vent pipes being much longer. Those longer vent pipes have a greater likelihood of being twisted and turned to accommodate the structure of the home—and that creates spaces for lint to collect.
What could happen if my dryer catches on fire?
Kevin Sippy, an insurance adjuster in ERIE’s Wisconsin Branch, inspects about five dryer fires every year. One particularly bad one happened when a customer laundered an item containing a type of rubber not meant to be dried at a hot temperature. When she turned the dryer to high, the material combusted and caused a blaze that destroyed $44,000 worth of property.
In another instance, a customer suffered $200,000 of property damage from a fire that started after she took her laundry out of the dryer. That customer washed towels that had been soaked in a sizable amount of sanitizing solution. She then placed the towels, which still had traces of the sanitizing solution, in the dryer. When the towels dried, they ended up spontaneously combusting and causing a fire that burned through an entire floor.
“We literally had to gut the house,” says Sippy, who changed his own laundry habits after that fire. “Now, I never dry anything higher than the low setting—I’d rather take a little longer to dry my clothes than burn my house down.”
9 tips to prevent dryer fires
1. Clean out the lint. “It starts with cleaning out the lint filter every time you use the dryer.” says John Hall, Ph.D., division director of fire Analysis & Research for the National Fire Protection Association. He also advises clearing out the vent pipe to reduce the chance of fire and to maintain the efficiency of the dryer.
2. Install with care. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions when installing the vent pipe. Use a short, straight pipe that’s an adequate distance from the wall. By reducing the bends in the dryer vent pipe, it creates fewer opportunities for lint to gather. If you have to vent your dryer over a long distance, consider investing in a dryer vent fan. These automatic electric devices speed up airflow through the duct every time you turn on your dryer to keep things moving along. A dryer vent fan should be installed by a licensed electrician.
3. Clear out combustibles. Move any flammables like cleaning supplies far away from your dryer. Also regularly sweep out dust in the areas around and underneath your dryer.
4. Opt for a solid metal dryer duct. Research shows that flexible foil or plastic ducts can sag and lead to lint buildup at low points. Metal ducts of any variety don’t sag, and they’re more likely to contain any fires that would start.
5. Read tags. If the care label reads tumble dry low, don’t turn the dryer up to high. Also use caution with certain items like bath mats, padded bras and bibs—they may contain rubber that shouldn’t be exposed to hot temperatures.
6. Exercise extra caution with flammable liquids. Wash clothing stained with volatile chemicals more than once—and definitely opt to line dry over machine dry.
7. Use your clothes to diagnose problems. Clothes that no longer feel dry or that are extra hot to the touch after a normal dry cycle are a telltale sign that something’s wrong. Before doing the next load, check for a plugged vent and clean out any lint.
8. Don’t dry and dash. Turn off your dryer if you need to step out during the laundry cycle.
9.Give the outdoor vent a peek. Make sure that the outdoor vent flap isn’t covered by snow or debris.
This story was originally published in 2013. It was updated with new information on Jan. 13, 2020.
Laundry is part of life’s weekly grind. But did you know that dryers cause roughly 15,500 home structure fires, 29 deaths, 400 injuries and $192 million in direct property loss each year? What’s more, most dryer fires happen in the winter.
What can cause a dryer fire?
The most common cause of dryer fires is failure to do a thorough cleaning. Because a lint trap is not a foolproof method for catching all the fuzzy stuff from clothes, lint can gradually build up and catch fire in the heating element or exhaust duct.
Posted on 12 January 2021 | 9:00 pm
There’s almost nothing more convenient than online ordering – and this year will be a holiday season like no other.
With smaller gatherings and social circles, you’ll likely be shipping more packages to friends and family you’d normally see in person over the holidays.
Unfortunately, more packages being delivered could increase the risk of package theft. A study by C+R Research estimates that 36% of survey respondents have had a package swiped from their doorstep before they could retrieve it, and over 50% knew someone who’d had a package stolen.
Since online shopping is only predicted to increase, here are a few steps to protect your deliveries from what are commonly called porch pirates.
How to Protect Deliveries from Porch Pirates
- Install a smart device. Various smart gadgets on the market can help keep packages secure. A video doorbell allows you to see and speak to the delivery person at your door through your mobile device. You can ask them to leave the package in an inconspicuous spot or activate your smart lock and have them leave it inside your door.
- Contact your carrier. Do a little detective work, and you may uncover some options through the delivery service. Many carriers now offer flexible options that let you schedule or reroute deliveries. For example, you could have them dropped off and held at a retailer near you, or deposited in a secure locker, such as gopost from the USPS. Before you order, check the alternative offerings from the carrier.
- Check your credit card policies. Some credit card companies offer protection against package theft to help you recover your losses. For specifics, get in touch with your credit card company to find out if this coverage is available and for how much.
- Track your packages. Reputable retailers often offer free package tracking so you can see when your purchase ships and where it stops along its journey to your front door. Being able to see when it might arrive can help you protect that package from theft.
Keep Your Home Secure Against Holiday Burglars
Once you’ve gotten your packages inside your home, you’ll want to protect them, and your own belongings, from holiday thieves. Here are some tips to help protect your home during the holidays.
- Keep doors locked. This almost goes without saying, but make sure you keep your doors and windows locked. According to 2019 data from the FBI, 37% of burglaries are unlawful entry, suggesting that doors and windows were not secured.
- Shore up your garage’s weaknesses. This part of the house has some weak points that make it pretty easy for an intruder to work their way in. If you park your car in the driveway, don’t keep the garage opener in your car; keep it in the house. Never store gifts in the garage, especially if your garage has windows and non-deadbolt locks on exterior doors. Finally, always use the deadbolt to secure the door from the garage into the house.
- Create that at-home look. With those short days and long nights, it’s a good idea to put your lights on a timer. You can also have a neighbor or family member park in your driveway intermittently. It’s a great way to fool a burglar into thinking someone’s home.
- Discard wisely. What’s a sure sign to a burglar that your home is now filled with expensive gadgets? Empty boxes stacked next to your recycling bin. Instead, load them up in your car and find a place where you can drop these off.
- Conceal your gifts. Some people like to have gifts out ahead of the actual holiday. If these are visible from the outside, it can be tempting to a burglar. Keep your shades or drapes drawn. Or, if you like showing off your holiday decorations to your neighbors, consider storing the wrapped gifts in a closet or some other out-of-sight place until the big day.
- Be social media savvy. Do take lots of pictures of your holiday vacation or the delighted faces of your loved ones opening gifts, but be mindful of what you share online and when you share them. (Tip: You may want to wait until after you’re safely home to post on social media.)
What better gift to give yourself than a homeowners insurance policy from Erie Insurance? Talk to a local agent near you for a free quote, or schedule a policy review to make sure your coverage is up to date.
Posted on 10 December 2020 | 9:00 pm
Car gift ideas for commuters
- Wireless charger: These days, our smartphones are an essential piece of equipment – which can make keeping them fully charged a challenge. A charging pad for the car means they’ll never have to think about plugging in a smartphone. Just place it in the console and the power flows automatically.
- Drinkware: Cold brew is cool – unless you’re prepared for piping hot. A vacuum-insulated travel mug will keep hot drinks hot (or cold drinks cold) for hours on end, making them the perfect accessory for any long commute.
- Dash cam: Accidents happen. And if you’re logging lots of miles behind the wheel each day, the likelihood of a fender bender is even higher. A dash cam easily mounts to the car's windshield and will record everything that happens from the moment you turn the key. This can provide important evidence in the event of an accident, especially during a hit-and-run.
- Jump starter:Click-click-click…that dreaded sound means your battery’s dead. You could call Emergency Roadside Service or ask a stranger for a jump start (assuming one of you has jumper cables). But the fastest, easiest and safest way is to use a battery jump starter. These portable booster packs feature a battery that’s powerful enough to jump a car on its own. Best of all, new models by companies such as NOCO and Stanley are compact and won’t break the bank.
- Emergency kit: A well-stocked emergency kit is important for every driver. But this is especially true for those who spend a lot of time on the road. Buy a premade kit from your local auto parts store or assemble your own car emergency kit using these instructions.
- Bluetooth receiver: Do you know someone with an older car that doesn’t have Bluetooth capability? No problem! Just buy a Bluetooth receiver, plug it into the car’s auxiliary power outlet (cigarette lighter), and they can play tunes wirelessly through the radio using the built-in FM transmitter.
- Custom floor mats: During rain and snow, those carpet floor mats that come standard with your car can turn into a wet, filthy mess. Universal all-weather floor mats provide a step up. But for the best protection, consider a more custom solution. You can buy rubberized floor mats designed to fit perfectly in any vehicle from companies like WeatherTech or the vehicle’s manufacturer.
- Phone mount: Cell phone use is by far the top cause of distracted driving. Help keep their eyes on the road with a dash- or windshield-mounted phone holder. A mount will make for safer driving when using key smartphone features, like GPS navigation – but remember, always keep your hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.
- Audiobooks: Know someone who wants to make more time for reading? Help them use all that commuting time to their advantage. It’s easy to play an audiobook from your smartphone and listen to it during a drive. To satisfy their inner bookworm, consider a gift card to Amazon or a subscription to a service like Audible.
- Music subscriptions: After hours in the car, you can get tired of the same old music. And if you’re using a streaming service or listening to the radio, hearing the same ads on repeat is even worse. Buy a premium subscription to a streaming service like Pandora, Spotify, Amazon Music or Apple Music – or a subscription to SiriusXM satellite radio – to give the gift of ad-free music enjoyment.
- Tire inflator: Low on air? A portable tire inflator will plug into their vehicle’s power outlet and allow them to fill up anywhere, no gas station required.
- Steering wheel desk: Working from the road can be tough. Improve the ergonomics of their mobile workplace with a desk that attaches to the steering wheel. It makes for a great place to send a few emails, or even eat lunch – while you’re safely parked, of course.
Cute car accessories
- Steering wheel cover: Add some extra style to their ride with a custom steering wheel cover to match their personality. (Think: leopard, Aztec, boho, or bling.) Or choose something soft and fuzzy to take the edge off that winter cold.
- Headrest hangers: These specially designed hooks attach to the posts of a headrest, allowing them to hang nearly anything into the backseat. They work great for bags, purses or clothing.
- Seat covers: Whether their car’s seats are worn and stained, or they’d just like an added pop of color, seat covers can be a great solution. You can even buy a heated seat cover that plugs into the vehicle’s auxiliary power outlet, if they drive a car that didn’t come with factory-installed heated seats.
- Interior lights: Brighten up the interior of any vehicle with LED lighting strips. These lights are designed to be mounted in the footwells of the car for better visibility. They’re easy to install, and you can even customize the colors through a mobile app. (Just make sure the mood lighting doesn’t distract you on the road.)
- Glove box organizer: Do you know someone who struggles finding their registration and proof of insurance when they need it? A glove compartment organizer can help keep everything well sorted, so it’s always there when they need it. (ERIE customer? Download the ERIE mobile app for access to your policy information at your fingertips.)
- Seat belt pad: Wearing a seat belt can save your life in the event of an accident. But the shoulder straps can also get uncomfortable over long periods of time. A seat belt pad wraps around the shoulder strap to provide some needed relief. And they’re available in tons of colors, materials and styles.
Funny car accessories
- Key finder: Do you know someone who can never find their keys? A key finder, available from companies such as Tile, makes it easy to find those lost keys. Just activate the keychain alarm from a smartphone, and they’ll save hours spent digging through couch cushions.
- Model car: Shopping for someone whose dream car is an exotic Porsche, Ferrari or Lamborghini? You may not be able to get them a new ride, but you could make a joke out of buying a scaled-down version from Lego or Hot Wheels.
- Hula dancer: Bring back some retro style with a vintage dashboard doll. Choose the classic hula dancer, or any number of other bobbleheads available. (Just don’t let all that wiggling distract you from the road.)
- Fuzzy dice: Speaking of retro, nothing screams 1950s car culture like a pair of fuzzy dice hanging from the rearview mirror.
- Seat gap filler: Always losing things in the gap between the seat and the car’s center console? Save them from searching that seemingly bottomless pit with a seat gap filler, like Drop Stop. Originally a Shark Tank invention, this car-related gift may seem ridiculous, but it can actually be quite helpful in the moment.
- Trash can: From fast-food wrappers to disposable masks, car clutter can drive you crazy. For your messier friends and family, a mini trash can could incentivize them to keep things a little cleaner.
- Bumper stickers: Bumper stickers are the original funny car accessory. With thousands to choose from, you’re bound to find something that fits their personality – or leverages an inside joke.
Gift ideas for car enthusiasts
- Code scanner: We’ve all experienced the dreaded “check engine” light. (Ignoring it made our list of 9 things to never do to your car.) Help them get to the bottom of why the light’s on with a code scanner. Just plug it into the car’s diagnostic port and use the scanner to pull the engine code. Newer versions can even connect to your phone for a more user-friendly experience.
- Detailing kit: Help the car lover in your life keep their ride clean with a detailing kit. There are tons of kits available that include items such as car wash, wax, microfiber towels, glass cleaner and tire shine. Get more tips in our related article on how to clean and detail your car at home.
- Driving gloves: For the serious driver, a pair of leather gloves can be a great gift. Though they’re probably unnecessary for newer cars with power steering, they can still help them feel like their favorite racing driver.
- Magazine subscription: Give them access to the latest news on what’s going on in the car world with a subscription to an enthusiast magazine like Car and Driver, Road & Track or Motor Trend.
- Driving shoes: Spirited driving in a car with a manual transmission can require some fancy footwork. Driving shoes, sold by companies like Piloti and Puma, offer a thin profile to improve pedal feel, with extra grip on the parts of the sole where it’s needed most.
- Tool kit: Having a small set of portable tools in your car can really help in a bind. This is an especially good gift for the car lover who loves wrenching on their own vehicle.
- Driving experience: Let them live out their automotive fantasy by taking an exotic sports car around a local road course. Or pretend they’re a NASCAR driver at the Richard Petty Driving Experience. A driving experience like this may only last a few hours, but they’ll talk about it for years to come.
- Tire pressure gauge: Running the right tire pressure at each corner of your vehicle can make a real difference in your car’s performance. Help them get an exact reading with a digital tire pressure gauge.
- Driving school: High performance driving schools aren’t like that drivers ed course you took in high school. Instead of parallel parking, they can take their car to a local race track and learn how to improve their skills behind the wheel from a seasoned pro.
Gift ideas for pet lovers
- Portable vacuum: We love our pets. But the hair they leave behind… not so much. Buy the pet lover in your life a small portable vacuum to keep in the car. It’ll help clean up any hairball in an instant.
- Seat protectors: A muddy day at the dog park can mean hours cleaning the back seat after the ride home. Pet seat protectors are designed to lay on top of the rear seat, creating a protective barrier that’s easy to take out and wash.
- Safety harness: You wear a seat belt in the car to keep you safe. Your pet should, too. There’s a wide range of pet safety gear available on the market today, from harnesses and clips to leashes and carriers. Learn more in our guide on how to keep pets safe in cars.
- Air freshener: Scooby smells sweet…until he gets wet. (Ugh.) Get rid of that dreaded wet dog smell with an air freshener or deodorizer designed specifically for pets.
- Cargo liner: Does a pet frequently ride in the back of their crossover or SUV? A rubber cargo liner will keep any mess they create from damaging the vehicle. You can even purchase barriers to keep pets from jumping into the back seat.
Feel right at home
From your driver seat settings to the position of the steering wheel and your favorite station on the radio, your car is your safe haven on the road.
At ERIE, we want you to feel just as comfortable with your auto insurance coverage. We customize your protection and service, giving you exactly what you need and nothing you don’t. Contact your local ERIE agent today to get a free, no-obligation auto insurance quote.
With the holidays quickly approaching, it’s time to start thinking about the perfect gift for those special people in your life.
Looking for ideas? Here’s our list of the top car-related gifts you can buy for your friends and family – from the commuting road warrior to the die-hard auto enthusiast, and everyone in between. (Of course, having the right auto insurance to protect your ride helps it go the distance, too.)
Posted on 6 December 2020 | 9:00 pm
The average American plans to spend $998 this winter holiday season, according to the National Retail Federation. This means it will be a busy time for both online and brick and mortar retailers.
However, all that hustle and bustle can create opportunities for real-life grinches. This time of year, thieves, pickpockets and porch pirates are on the prowl to pilfer your packages. But you can outsmart them! Here’s how to stay aware – and keep your holiday haul safe.
‘Tis the Season for (Safe) Holiday Shopping
Though many of us plan to turn to online shopping this year, you might still decide to make a quick trip to the mall or your favorite local shops. Keep these quick safety tips in mind when you’re out and about.
- Travel light. Leave your purse at home if you can, and bring only keys, phone and cash or credit card (and keep those in a front pocket to protect from pickpockets in crowds).
- Be a picky parker. Shopping during daylight hours is probably safer, especially when you’re passing through the parking lot with bags full of gifts. But night shopping, especially with the season's shorter daylight hours and hectic work schedules, is a necessity for many. Park your car in a well-lit area as close to the entrance as possible. If your car is broken into, here's what you should do next.
- Stay aware and walk with a purpose. No matter how stressed or rushed you may feel, take a breath and pay attention to your surroundings. Before heading out to your car, have your keys ready. Then, you won’t need to set your purse or packages down to fumble around for them. If you feel unsafe walking alone in the parking facilities, request a security guard to escort you.
- Drive with caution. Whether entering or exiting crowded parking lots or ramps, cars can pull out suddenly and people can appear from seemingly nowhere. Slow down and minimize distractions in the car to give your driving your full attention. This is one way you can avoid a fender bender in a parking lot.
- Keep gifts out of sight. It’s best to head straight home after your shopping trip, but that’s not always practical. If you have more errands on your list, be conscious of where you store your gifts in your vehicle. If possible, clear room in your trunk and don’t leave gifts or bags with valuables on your front seat.
Ship Your Holiday Packages with Care
When mailing gifts, it’s easy to ship your parcels and walk away. However, a lot can happen after a package leaves your hands. Here are some tips to keep in mind before shipping your holiday gifts and packages:
- Schedule accordingly. Remember, this is the season for package deliveries — and package thefts. Before you send, consider your recipient’s lifestyle and schedule. You certainly don’t want your gifts sitting outside unguarded for hours or days. Before you fill out the packing slip, give the recipient a heads up about their special delivery and get the OK to send it to their place.
- Pack carefully. Bubble wrap is always the trusted go-to in keeping just about everything in one piece. To keep smaller gifts from getting overlooked in the box, tape all the gifts together. Before you seal the shipping box with packing tape, close the lid and give the box a shake. If things are moving around too much, add more crunched-up newspaper or packing pellets.
- Have a backup plan. Things can happen in transit. Just to be safe, put an extra mailing label inside the box. If the outer label gets wet, torn or otherwise illegible, this gives postal workers or shipping services a backup so they can get your box to the right place.
- Get insured. Look into what your carrier offers for insurance protection. Just remember that many parcels are already covered, as long as they’re valued under a certain dollar amount. Check with your carrier and consider purchasing additional shipping coverage if needed. Read the fine print, take photographs of the items and hang on to the receipts until the package is safely delivered.
Looking After You… And Your Home, Too
What better gift to give yourself than a homeowners insurance policy from Erie Insurance? Talk to a local agent near you for a free quote, or schedule a policy review to make sure your coverage is up to date.
Posted on 1 December 2020 | 9:00 pm